How to Get Your Kids to Eat Anything

Think your kids won’t eat raw oysters? Do they turn up their noses at liver and onions? You need to read this post.

How to Get Your Kids to Eat Anything

Think your kids won’t eat raw oysters? Do they turn up their noses at liver and onions? You need to read this post.

I had the most interesting conversation with Ceci, the woman who owns our daughter’s daycare. She has a few secret tricks up her sleeve to get kids — any kid — to eat anything.

Yes, liver. And yeah, tripe. And, yep, pretty much anything else you can imagine that you think a child would never eat. Octopus. Natto. Pancreas. You name it. All those super-nutrient-dense foods that are going to give your kiddos high cheekbones, a wide, beautiful face, and perfectly straight teeth.

Ceci from Peru

Ceci grew up in Peru on a traditional diet. She told me that she grew up eating all kinds of organ meats, including liver, kidneys, stomach, brains, and glands. She still makes chicken soup from scratch, as well as beans, rice and tamales and pozole for the children at the daycare.

Last week, I was at the daycare chatting with Ceci, when one of the women who works for her came up to us and handed me a bag of coconut candy I had made for my daughter, Kate as part of her afternoon snack.  It was fresh coconut, roasted, covered with raw honey, and dried in the dehydrator. (Yum, doesn’t that sound good? It was!)

The young woman handed me the Ziploc bag of coconut candy and said, “Kate ate everything from her snack, the cheese, the almonds, the raisins — everything but this coconut.”

I thanked her and she left. I was a little surprised and puzzled by the fact that Kate did not eat the coconut candy. I could understand maybe if it had not been sweetened. When I tried to give her fresh, raw coconut, over the weekend, she wouldn’t eat it. She spit it out. However, when I sweetened it with a little raw honey, she loved it. She had eaten a small bowl of it as a snack on Sunday. And now she was not eating it. Why the switch?

I looked at Ceci. She was shaking her head.

Once the girl was out of earshot, Ceci said, “All the children eat anything I give them. Anything. The only time I have trouble with children not eating their food is when I get a new girl. It’s always that the girl does not like the food — that’s when the children won’t eat it.”

“Really?” I asked, fascinated. Ceci’s been running this daycare for like 30 years. She has seen it all. “So if the girl doesn’t like the food, the kid won’t eat it?”

Ceci nodded. “The children know.”

Learning to Love Liverwurst

It occurred to me suddenly that Kate had eaten liverwurst sandwiches with me — and she had eaten them at daycare before, too. But then last week, the same girl who told me that Kate wouldn’t eat the coconut candy had also informed me that Kate did not eat her liverwurst-on-sprouted-bread sandwich. I flashed back in my mind of her her handing me two days worth of liverwurst sandwiches.

“She wouldn’t eat these,” she said. I remember her face, the look of disdain.

“Ceci,” I said, “Is this why Kate didn’t eat her liverwurst last week?”

Ceci’s eyes widened. “She didn’t eat it? She ate it with me before.”

“No! For two days she wouldn’t eat her liverwurst sandwich.”

Ceci nodded knowingly. “It was the girl. She doesn’t like liver. I love liver. Kate eats it when she’s with me. From now on, you tell me when it is Liver Day. I’ll have Kate sit with me when she eats her liver. She’ll eat it if she is with me.”

I laughed. “It’s a deal!”

I packed a liverwurst sandwich for Kate yesterday. I told Ceci in the morning, “It’s Liver Day!” She gave me a conspiratorial wink and told me she’d make sure Kate sat with her to eat her snack. I said, “I made a big sandwich so you can have half.”

When I picked Kate up from daycare, Ceci told me that Kate ate her snack sitting with her. “We shared the sandwich and it was delicious — she ate half and I ate half. We loved it!”

How To Get Your Kids to Eat Anything

Ceci told me her secret.

“One taste,” she said. “I tell the children, take one taste. Then the next time, I tell them, two tastes. Then the next time, three tastes.”

“How many times do you do it?” I asked.

“Until they like it.”

I laughed. “Genius!” And then I asked, “But the mother has to like the food?”

“Yes,” she said, nodding. “If we don’t like it, they won’t like it.”

In other words, we can’t fake it. If we want our kids to eat liver, we have to learn to love it first.

Photo credit: Nir Nussbaum and Savannah Grandfather on Flickr